Foresight is a user led charity based in Grimsby. They started out in 1999 with just one small contract and have since grown to become a £1.8m turnover organisation employing 34 staff and with more than 120 active volunteers.
They provide a wide range of services including supported accommodation, a community library, education for people with learning disabilities, a gym, and a wonderful venue where events as diverse as wrestling, cinema and theatre take place.
Foresight continue to see unrelenting growth, driven by local need and the ‘can do’ attitude of Paul Silvester, the CEO, and his team. What is perhaps unusual about Foresight is their approach to funding growth, in that they are comfortable with taking on repayable investment where necessary, but only of course if the business case makes sense; they never overstretch themselves.
But is Foresight investment ready? The answer is both yes and no. This is because Investment readiness is not an absolute state of being and needs to be considered in the light of the specific investment. Foresight had experience in relation to investment before getting Big Potential support in 2016 to fund further growth. However, the new investment to fund community classrooms and apartments for people with disabilities had two important features. Firstly, the amount required was much more than they had previously sought. Secondly a high proportion of the funding was for a new build project. This meant that there was a higher degree of risk attached to the lending than previous investment projects.
This led to a significant step change in what lenders needed to satisfy themselves that Foresight was investable. Top of the list was to improve board governance arrangements to ensure that management received the right blend of challenge, but also to provide insightful support to the management team. The Big Potential project focused on improving Board reporting processes and also led to a significant strengthening of the board with new appointments with skills including accounting, corporate law, and HR.
Another lender concern was ensuring that the new build project was well managed from the start and that planning and procurement of the build contract reduced risk as far as possible. A robust project plan was produced with detailed monthly financial projections throughout the development period. Having a good grip on the cash flows and management of the build mattered a lot to the lenders and gave them comfort that Foresight was ready to take on a significant construction project.
The end result of the Big Potential support was that Foresight were, once again, investment ready and consequently able to attract more than £2.2m at attractive rates. The community classrooms were developed first. The state of the art classrooms look great and the students absolutely love them. The professionally produced tender pack for the supported accommodation apartments got a strong response from local contractors and the Foresight Board have now appointed a firm to start the build work in Spring 2018. By the end of the year 25 individuals with disabilities will be living independently in modern, fit for purpose, apartments.
So, is Foresight investment ready? The answer right now is a resounding yes. The real question however is will they be investment ready for their next project. That very much depends on what this wonderful charity intends to do next.